Expert Comment: first anniversary of Feeding Britain reportTuesday 8 December 2015
Dr Bryce Evans, Senior Lecturer in History, reflects on the first anniversary of the Feeding Britain report, and the news that it is to become a charity.
One year on from the landmark Feeding Britain report comes the news that Feeding Britain is to become a charity.
A big new effort to address food poverty is, on the one hand, a good thing. Benefits changes and sanctions brought in under successive Tory-led governments have aggravated poverty and pushed up demand for food banks. Why? Because under the new benefits rules many people (not just scroungers, but hard-working people suddenly made redundant) are often left marooned for a period of around six weeks while their claims are scrutinised and reassessed and during which they have no income whatsoever.
But it’s not just a question of the big bad Tories impoverishing the poor old plebs. In the middle you have the emergence of the ‘food poverty’ marketers. Those who see a gap in state provision as signifying a gap in the market.
The uncomfortable truth is that despite the occasional dutiful noise about how austerity is terrible, many of the large charitable growth organisations who claim to be addressing ‘food poverty’ have everything to gain from the state continuing to do nothing to help ensure its citizens are well fed.
Thus ‘food poverty’, one of the newly formed marketplaces in misery, trundles on. Small and independent charities and churches perform their excellent role in feeding the poor, sure, but the market – for market it has become – is actually dominated by bigger concerns who do very well, thank you.
An alternative would be genuine activists coming together to press the state to do more. But in the process, vested interests – some of them ostensibly pure charities – will have to come around to the idea that a proper solution to food poverty would be to put themselves out of business.
in becoming a charity, Feeding Britain must retain the objective of eliminating the need for charitable food assistance altogether. To do otherwise would be to compromise its original objectives.
Charity is great. But Sympathy is not justice. Let’s have a bit more of the latter.